O’s hit grand slam with FanFest…whiff on Tejada reunion

January 23, 2010 | Drew Forrester

The Convention Center was awash with orange today and by any account, Orioles FanFest was a whopping success.

I was there from 12 noon until 1:15 or so and the place was mobbed with baseball fans, nearly all of them sporting some kind of O’s jersey, hat or shirt.

Personally, I’d be fibbing if I said I wasn’t just a tad proud each and every time I saw someone wearing a gray “BALTIMORE” away jersey.  I’ll leave that alone though and just move on to the event itself.

The people who ventured downtown today are the real fans who should be featured in the “This is Birdland” TV commercials.  Forget hiring those actors.  Put the camera on the die-hards at the Convention Center this afternoon.  They’re real.

For one day, no one cared about raising ticket prices…or failing to sign Chone Figgins or Adam LaRoche…or losing for 12 years in a row.  All the people in that building today were unfazed by the bad and buoyed by the potential for good.

Including me.

I assume the (recognized) media was allowed in the place for free, but I didn’t ask.  I had a $10.00 ticket and entered the door like the rest of the great unwashed.

For one day, I forgot about the unreturned phone calls, the lack of cooperation from the club and the overall poor treatment I’ve received from the team over the last 3 years or so.

I just milled in with the rest of the 10,000 or so who were there and enjoyed the afternoon.

In all fairness, the Orioles should do two or three of these kind of fan interactive events in the winter…but this one, today, was an absolute grand slam.  The O’s did an excellent job putting together a winter baseball festival that will keep the fans cozied up to the Hot Stove until April rolls around.

I had a great time at FanFest.

That is, until around 1:30 or so when I got the WNST.net text message about the signing of Miguel Tejada.

I may or may not write more about this next week when I’ve had time to digest it all, but for now, I will quickly point out that it’s indeed a sad day when the team reunites with a player who lied to the government two years ago and was later found guilty of perjury and lying under oath.

He can still hit for average, Tejada can, but his power numbers have (mysteriously) dropped over the last few years and he’s only driven in more than 90 runs one time since 2006.  He was, at one time, an outstanding defensive player who diminished to “serviceable” later in his career, and there’s no telling how he’ll handle the switch to third base.

The Orioles are going to move him to third base, a position he’s never once played in the big leagues, and his salary reportedly checks in at $6 million, a far cry from the $14.8 million he made each of the last two seasons in Houston.

My, how the mighty have fallen.

I was a huge Tejada fan when the O’s signed him for the 2004 campaign.  He represented the team’s initial “return to competiveness” effort and was the high dollar signing fans needed to see to accept the fact that the O’s were once again trying to win.

But three years into his six-year deal, Tejada had sniffed out the truth.  The team wasn’t trying to win anymore.  And it burned him up.  His “what a great country” attitude changed and he was no longer the light of the locker room.  By the time Sam Perlozzo was fired midway through the 2007 campaign and Dave Trembley was brought on board, the end of the road was in sight for both Tejada and the Birds.  The day after the O’s dumped him off to Houston in December of ’07, word came out that Tejada was in The Mitchell Report and all of us who suspected he was a steroid user had all the confirmation we needed.

And now, he’s back.

Only this time, I’m not on board with Tejada, The Sequel.

Questions have arisen about his age (an ESPN report two years ago disclosed that Tejada was really born in 1974, not 1976).

The Orioles – because he’d sign for one year and take a nearly-9-million-dollar-pay-cut – will shift him to third base and occasionally let him DH. I would rather go into the season with a “real” third baseman, but I guess this is all you can get when you’ve lost for 12 straight years.

And what’s it say, honestly, about a guy who wound up hating Baltimore so much in his last go around because they were losing 6 out of every 10 games…and now he comes back and signs up for more losing and a one-year cup of coffee at $6 million bucks?

Lastly, what’s it say about the Orioles, honestly, when they bring a guy into the fold who perjured himself to Congress and lied under oath?  Then again, there are still probably hundreds of players making a living in the major leagues who either did or still use steroids or HGH.

And what ever happened to spending money on players who actually play the position you’re signing them for?  They’ve now added Tejada (a shortstop by trade) and Garrett Atkins (mainly a 3rd baseman) in the off-season and neither one of them will start the year at their natural position.  Why not just spend the money a TRUE first baseman or a third baseman?  I know…I know…I’m just being negative.

So why bring Tejada back now?

What’s the message there?

As great as FanFest was today…and it really DID feel like spring in Baltimore inside the Convention Center…the news of the Tejada signing was a downer for me.

I just can’t get past this:  Miguel Tejada:  Lied to the government.  Plea bargained his way out of jail time.  Set to make $6 million in 2010.  Playing a position he never played before.

None of those are low blows, either.  They’re all facts.

It certainly is a great country.